tv Face the Nation CBS March 14, 2010 10:30am-11:00am EDT
>> schieffer: today on "face the nation," we're down to the crunch on health care reform. it's the showdown-- is it finally here? we'll bring in robert gibbs, the man who speaks for the senate. key senate republican lamar alexander democrat debbie wasserman shultz from the house and karen ignagni who speaks for the insurance industry. does the president have the votes to pass it or doesn't he? who will be helped and who will pay? then i'll have a final word on the... eliminating the middleman in politics, the politician. but first the final hours of the health care debate on "face the nation." captioning sponsored by cbs
"face the nation" with cbs news chief washington correspondent bob schieffer. and now from cbs news in washington, bob schieffer. >> schieffer: good morning again. republican senator lamar alexander is in nashville this morning but first up is white house press secretary robert gibbs who joins us here in the studio. mr. gibbs, thank you for being here. >> thank you for having me. >> schieffer: the talking points seem set by the white house and the democrats. they say they are going to have the vets to pass health care when it comes to a vote toward the end of this week. i have to tell you independent vote counters say you don't have the votes yet. even jim clyburn who is the democratic vote counter in the house says you don't have them yet. how can you be so sure you're going to have them when in fact people don't really know what's in this bill yet? >> look, i think as cbo scores the rest of this bill, members of the house will get a closer look and take a closer look at
each of the provisions in it. and make up their minds. we do believe that a week from today we'll be talking about a bill that has passed the house, not being considered by the house. because what i think members are going to see in health care legislation is progress to help small businesses afford providing insurance for their employers, help for families that are worried about an insurance company that might discriminate against them because of a pre-existing condition. they'll understand that we can't stop. we can't walk away right now from getting health care reform for millions of americans. >> in fact, members of the house don't yet know exactly how this is going to be paid for. i mean, is the payroll, medicare payroll tax going to go up? are the taxs on some of the big insurance plans in the senate bill, are those going to stay there? are some of these kickbacks that go to people in nebraska and louisiana? is all of that going to be in this bill? how can they know what's in it?
>> bob, the special deals that the president found objectionable are indeed out of this legislation. as this bill comes out and members get a chance to look at all of it, they certainly have seen parts of it. we understand that the underlying legislation that the house will consider is the bill that passed the senate in december with 60 votes. a super majority. so we understand the basis of what this bill is going to be. look, i believe that people are going to look at this not because of what is politically right or wrong but what's the best thing to do for the american people? i think without a doubt, if we do nothing, we know what's going to happen. our health insurance rates are going to skyrocket. we've got to get ahold of this problem. we've got to do something that helps the spending that we do on a federal government basis for medicare and medicaid. we've got to make some plo gres on all these issues. i think that's what the president is going to be successful at doing in a week. >> schieffer: as i understand it, and the parliamentarian seemed to have ruled that the house is going to have to pass
the bill that the senate passed. >> right. >> schieffer: then the president is going to have to sign that. before the house votes on this so-called reconciliation package. it's going to correct all those things they don't like in the senate bill. >> yes, sir. >> schieffer: what assurance can you give house members that if they vote for that bill they don't like that they're not going to be left out on a limb because the senate refuses to go along with the corrections? >> i know just as the president is speaking with members of the house about passing the underlying senate bill, i know he's also talking to members of the senate about making sure that the corrections that he believes have to be passed to the senate bill are indeed taken up and passed. so the president is working on both of those tracks in order to get that done. >> schieffer: you know as well as i do, those house members just don't trust the senate. one house member said it's a distrustful body. and there are things in that bill that if the senate doesn't correct them, those
house members are going to have to go out and they're up for re-election in november. what can the president say to them to assure them? look, this is not going to happen? the senate is going to do this. >> again, we've worked with leaders in the senate. we've talked to members of the senate. the president has. look, members of the house, the president and members of the senate want to see some of those corrections made in that legislation. i think this is going to happen. again, i think the house will pass the senate bill a week from today. we'll be working now next on getting those corrections passed by both the house and the senate. we'll have health care reform in this country. >> schieffer: let me ask you what if... what if it doesn't happen this week? you know, the leader of the republicans said you'll be able to pass it but they'll make it as difficult as they can if not impossible. >> they're living proof of that for almost the whole year,
bob. >> schieffer: but what if it doesn't pass, what if something doesn't pass that you don't get it done this week, the congress goes on a two-week vacation, the president goes overseas on this trip. will you still be pushing this? >> i think as speaker pelosi has said, this is the week. this is the week where we will have this important vote. the president has, as you said, a very important trip to indonesia and australia. in a very vital part of the world. we need to get these corrections done before the senate leaves the week after. so, look, i think we're on a timetable to get this done over the course of the next week and get something quickly to the president. he's been working on this, this president has been working on this for more than a year and presidents have been working on the issue of making sure that we don't get overwhelmed by the health of... by the cost of health care for seven decades. i think this is the week we're going to see real progress. >> schieffer: let me ask you this, mr. gibbs.
if you lose this week, is that the end of it? >> well, i don't think we're going to lose. >> schieffer: i know you don't. >> i do think this is the climactic week for health care reform. like i said, i think whoever you interview just this time next week, you won't be talking about a proposal in the house. you'll be talking about the house having passed that proposal and us being a signature away from health care reform in this country. >> schieffer: but this is it. >> i think this is the week. >> schieffer: all right. robert gibbs, who speaks for the president. thank you so much for being with us, mr. gibbs. >> thank you, sir. >> schieffer: we want to go to nashville tennessee and republican senator lamar alexander. senator, you just heard robert gibbs. he says this is it. republicans say they're against this thing. they think that the american people don't want it. how do you think it's going to come out? do you think they have the votes to pass it? >> i have no idea, bob. you've been on the grand ole opry here in nashville. if this crowd were invited to be the grand ole opry they'll
never be invited back because they're tone deaf about what the american people want about this bill. we're not trying to end the health care debate. we're trying to change it. we're trying to say the american people don't want higher individual premiums, higher taxes, medicare cuts. they don't want an increase in the deficit. they're wondering why if we're trying to reduce costs it costs a trillion dollars so what we ought to do this week is defeat this bill. of course there's not a bill yet. nobody has read it yet. nobody knows what it costs not even been produced, defeat whatever it is. let's go to work, setting the goal of reducing costs so more americans can afford to buy insurance. >> schieffer: well, you have said on the record that republicans will challenge every sentence in this bill. what does that mean? does that mean you'll try to try to throw up procedural road blocks? offer amendments? let's say that the house does pass this and it does come back to the senate, what happens then?
>> here's what the house democrats are being asked to do. they're being asked by the president to hold hands, jump off a cliff and hope harry reid catches them in the senate. after the bill is law. all 41 republican senators have agreed that we're going to enforce the rules of the senate. which means, for example, that the only things they can change have to do with taxing and budget. so they try to change abortion, that won't work. we're going to go sentence by sentence through the 3,000-page bill to make sure the rules are followed. that's what the american people would expect us to do. >> schieffer: you will not be able to filibuster those things that come under the so- called reconciliation package which is the package of legislation that supposedly will correct the bill that passed the senate earlier. will you try to, as some say, try to filibuster by amendment? will you offer an endless number of amendments? >> well, we'll certainly offer a large number of amendments
to try to correct the bill. but just think about this for a minute. through elections, through town meetings, through consistent public opinion surveys, americans have said don't pass this bill. and this is the most brazen act of political arrogance that i can remember since the watergate years. not in terms of breaking the law but in terms of thumbing your nose at the american people and say we know you don't want it. we're going to give it to you anyway. i hope what the house democrats decide is we don't want to do that. we don't want a year like 1974 when people came down out of the mountains in tennessee looking for republicans so they would know who to vote against. we want to work with the republicans and try to let people buy insurance across state lines, to the other things we suggested at the health care summit and reduce health care costs. >> schieffer: critics have said that the president has really put his whole presidency on the line. he's put all the chips on the line. by putting everything he can
muster against health care, for health care and getting it passed. i guess i would ask the other side of the question. aren't republicans also putting everything on the line by just being universally totally against this? i mean i'm thinking about november. is it... can a party get elected just by saying no? is that a successful campaign tactic? >> no, it's not. it's not what we've done. i mean 173 times-- and i had my staff count them in the congressional record-- republicans went to the floor of the senate and offered our step-by-step plan to reduce costs. including small business health plans, buying insurance across state lines, stopping junk lawsuits against doctors, reducing waste, fraud and abuse. that's a different direction. what the president is trying to do is to expand a health care system that everybody knows is unaffordable. what we want to do is reduce the cost of the health care system.
i'm willing to put it to a vote. i hope we don't have to for the country. i mean the most important words the president may have uttered in the summit were that's what elections are for. he also said last year that the health care debate is not just about health care. it's a proxy for the larger issue of the role of government in american lives. we think he's right about that. >> schieffer: senator, you have said, i believe, that it would be catastrophic for the democrats if this legislation passes. from just the standpoint of straight politics, why wouldn't it be a good idea for republicans to let it pass? >> well, we were completely irresponsible... if we were completely irresponsible, that's what we would do. i think it's a political camy kaz emission for the democrats to insist on this. no big piece of social legislation, pat moynihan used to say that. no big piece of social legislation has been jammed through by a part partisan
vote. johnson had the... social security, medicare, medicaid all had 70 votes. i think from the day this passes, if it should, there will be an instant spontaneous campaign to repeal it all across the country. it will define every democratic congressional race in november. and it will be a political wipeout for the democratic party. that will be bad for the country but it will change the leadership of the country. >> schieffer: quickly. robert gibbs said next sunday we'll all be sitting here talking about how health care reform passed. do you agree with that? >> i hope he's wrong. i hope that the first part of your show is wrong too. this won't be the end of health care. if it passes, it will define the rest of the year in terms of political contests. if it fails it will just begin a different debate. >> schieffer: all right. thank you so much, senator lamar alexander from tennessee. we'll be back in just a second to talk about the person who speaks for the insurance industry, and democrat debbie wasserman shultz in a second.
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are you in good hands? >> schieffer: we're back now with democratic congresswoman debbie wasserman shultz who is in dueson this morning and karen ago ignagni who is president of the group that represents the health insurance companies. thank you for joining us. let me just play for you something that president obama said last week. this pretty much sets the stage for everything we want to talk about. >> every year insurance companies deny more people coverage because they've got pre-existing conditions. every year, they drop more people's coverage when they get sick right when they need it most. every year they raise premiums higher and higher and higher. >> schieffer: there you have it. how does the insurance industry react to that? >> i think there are two points, bob. thank you for the opportunity. one, we believe that now is
the time for health reform. there's no question about that. no debate. our community worked very hard over a period of three years as we went into 2009 to contribute to this discussion. we offered the insurance market reforms that the president is correctly talking about. in that clip and elsewhere. we believe in those reforms. we also believe that there are things that need to be done to make sure that they work and they're affordable for the american people. we helped get the ball down the field. we're proud of that. we've contributed to this discussion. this is not a situation where we're saying no to health reform. we're saying if it's not affordable, then we're not going to... we're not going to fulfill those objectives that everybody wants to see fulfilled. >> schieffer: congresswoman wasserman shultz, what would you respond to what ms. ignagni says? >> well, actions speak louder than words. there's really nothing else that can be said. unfortunately the american people can pretty clearly see
that the insurance industry, led by ahip, has refused to take yes for an answer. we have the elements of reform that they have called for in our legislation. we don't have the elements of reform that they have opposed. yet they still refuse to support our legislation. what's even more disappointing arch, you know, i actually took karen at her word a year ago and was thrilled to hear that she was supporting reforms that we've fought for for years yet the insurance industry opposed. now instead of helping to champion those reforms, the insurance industry led by ahip is carpet bombing dozens of my colleagues with ads distorting their record, lying about what the bill does, and at the end of the day it's difficult... it's really difficult to see the difference between the action versus their words. >> schieffer: well, i'm very sorry. let me apologize here. ms. ignagni is unable to hear what you're saying,
congresswoman. i'll try to repeat something of what she said. she said the industry is just lying. she says that you haven't come through on your word. you haven't said what... that you said you were going to do. that basically is the bottom line of what she says here. >> i'm sorry i didn't hear the audio. the point of the matter is the following, bob. since july there's been a vilification campaign aimed at our industry and the working men and women who work in the industry, who work very hard every day to fulfill their promise to their policy holders and their employers and their consumers and patients. what we're concerned about here is that there's been an effort through that vilification campaign to distract away from the underlying point we've been making simply because a group said something won't work you shouldn't be labeled anti-reform because of that. your obligation is to set out what will work. we have to get everybody in. we have to set a goal for the
health care costs will be brought under control because what we have seen over the last couple of weeks is that in fact we're seeing a situation where people are focusing on premium increases that are being driven by underlying costs. and people in congress don't want to confront the underlying costs because it's hard politically to do so. you have to take on a number of other stake holders to do so but focusing on 4% of health care expenditures which is what we represent to basically fund a trillion dollar piece of legislation, we are kidding ourselves in terms of whether or not that will work. it won't. but we can actually make health care a promise that becomes a reality as the american people if we focus on the underlying cost issue. >> schieffer: congresswoman? >> thank you. our legislation covers 31 million uninsured americans. we'll finally bring costs down and provide security and stability to those that don't have health insurance. you have the top five... what karen is saying is a little bit disingenuous. you have the top five health
insurance companies in america who on average have raised premiums 56%... have 56% increase in their profits while dropping 2.7 million people covered by their insurance plans. we have got to make sure that we cover everyone which we do. that we provide security and stable particularly to the small businesses like the one in my district where i was standing on the security line at the airport last week and a small business owner stopped me and said that last year his insurance company raised his premiums for his employees by 172% simply because he had one sick employee. our bill will change that to bring costs down and make sure that they're manageable. the insurance industry essentially wants to maintain the status quo. the status quo for them is record profits continuing to drop people and denying them coverage. the status quo for americans without health insurance reform is skyrocketing profits, shaky on top of a shaky
economy, a wrivg of losing their job and employers having to choose between letting people go or continuing to pay for their health insurance. that's not the right choice. >> schieffer: let's break and let ms. ignagni answer. >> this is the talking point of the last several weeks. i want to have an opportunity to. >> it's reality not a talking point. >> the average profit is 3.3%. we see other actors in the health care community at 15 to 20 and sometimes above. if we want to talk about profits we're looking in the wrong place. it is part of an effort to change the.... >> we want to talk about coverage, karen. >> our members believe strongly that we need health reform. we work very hard to contribute to this discussion. >> schieffer: why are premiums going up? >> i'm glad you asked. this problem of soaring premiums encapsulates what we've been saying. soaring premiums are being driven by two factors right now if we're talking about the individual market. underlying health care costs. in 2009 according to the government data, health care prices are soaring.
number one. number 2. in the individual market where people make a decision whether they're going to be participating or not, a bad economy has led people to drop coverage. pushing up the cost for everyone else. >> schieffer: i'm terribly sorry. that has to be the last word. i'm sorry, congresswoman. we're out of time. we're going to commercial now. we're out of time. sorry. employees everywhere are sending out an sos. who can help put their retirement plan back on solid ground... protect their savings... and guarantee their income throughout retirement? as a leader in your company, who can you call to help get retirement right? who? pru. for solutions that redefine retirement, prudential is the rock you can rely on.
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political campaigns, the folks at a little maryland company called murray hill inc. saw an opening. if corporations had the same rights as humans, they reasoned, why fool around the middlemen in politics, the politicians. instead of trying to buy them off, why not just run the company itself for a seat in congress? they've even got a slick new campaign ad. >> as much as corporate interests gave to politicians, we could never be absolutely sure they would do our bidding. but today thanks to an enlightened supreme court, corporations now have all the rights the founding fathers meant for us. it's power democracy. we bought it. we paid for it. and we're going to keep it. that's why murray hill inc. is taking democracy's next step: running for congress. >> schieffer: alas though it may never happen. the "washington post" reports the company has already run afoul of the constitution which says you must be 25 to
serve in congress. and the little company just isn't old enough. that's too bad. i was looking forward to a spirited debate on when corporate life begins. when is it just a gleam of the eye of the start-up guy or is it when, well, that's probably another one for the supreme court to decide. back in a minute. somewhere in america... there's a home by the sea powered by the wind on the plains. there's a hospital where technology has a healing touch. there's a factory giving old industries new life. and there's a train that got a whole city moving again. somewhere in america, the toughest questions are answered every day. because somewhere in america, more than sixty thousand people spend every day answering them. siemens. answers.
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